Port worker's reassignment was not in retaliation for whistleblowing, Ninth Circuit rules

by Ben Vernia | January 7th, 2014

On December 18, in an unpublished opinion in Jonassen v. Port of Seattle, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a would-be whistleblower’s claim for retaliation under the False Claims Act. The Court noted that the worker had filed a “meritless” qui tam suit against his employer, the Port of Seattle, but it concluded that the only cognizable adverse employment action (his reassignment to a boiler room, where less overtime was available than at his prior job at a waste treatment plant), was causally unrelated to his protected activities. The reassignment, the Court noted, predated his FCA suit by several months, and predated his manager’s awareness of the suit by two years. “Causation does not run in reverse,” the Court concluded.

The Court nevertheless reversed and remanded the suit for the worker’s breach of contract claims.

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